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Kookaburras World League campaign

24 June 2013

HOCKEY: Match reports from the 2013 FIH Men's Hockey World League semi-final 1 held in Rotterdam, Netherlands from June 13-23. Australia, Belgium, France, India, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain are vying to finish in the top three to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in The Hague.

Most recent match report appears first.


In a dramatic final at the World League in Rotterdam, the Kookaburras came out on the wrong side of an enthralling 2-2 draw and a sudden death shoot out against Belgium. 

For much of the match the Kookaburras battered the Belgian defence but despite goals from Chris Ciriello and Russell Ford, a textbook goalkeeping performance by Belgium’s Vincent Vanasch and the faintest of saves from his replacement Jeremy Gucassoff in the shoot-out denied the Australian men victory.

Head Coach Ric Charlesworth admitted afterwards his side had enough chances to win the game but said they had achieved two of three of their pre-tournament ambitions. “It’s a disappointing way to lose but we can only blame ourselves,” he said. “We had the chances but we didn’t take them; we even had chances to win it in the shoot-out. We had six penalty corners to their one but the goalkeeper made a lot of good saves and we put one past our own goalkeeper, too.

“We had three aims coming here: to qualify for the World Cup, to qualify for World League round four [in January] and to play well and win the main game. We didn’t lose today, it was a draw, but we didn’t play well enough and that’s our fault.”

Going into the game, the Kookaburras were keen to avenge their opening match defeat to Belgium but were without Kieran Govers, ruled out injured after sustaining a hamstring injury in the final minutes of Australia’s semi-final win over the Netherlands.

After a bright start, Chris Ciriello’s superb low flick from a 21st minute penalty corner gave Australia a deserved lead although Belgium thought they might have had an equaliser when the ball ended up in the Australian goal five minutes later. However, after successfully appealing to the video umpire, the Kookaburras overturned the goal, the ball deemed dangerous as it was lifted into Kiel Brown in the build-up.

The Kookaburras took a 1-0 lead into half time but it could have been three had it not been for an acrobatic stick save from Vanasch to deny Ciriello a second and quick block to thwart Tim Deavin with the Australian baring down on goal.

Matt Swann looked to have done everything necessary to extend the Australian lead four minutes after the restart but he too could only watch as Vanasch somehow turned his close range shot wide after good build-up play from Ciriello and Matt Gohdes.

Good defensive work from Glenn Simpson denied Thomas Briels before another outstanding piece of goalkeeping kept out Ciriello’s next corner effort. And it was a save that was to prove crucial for Belgium, who equalised a minute later through Tom Boon’s deflected shot. Up until the goal the Belgians had looked a little shaky but Boon’s strike galvanised the Europeans, who tested the reflexes of Andrew Charter from a penalty corner with the goalkeeper tipping the ball against the crossbar.

Charter then saved from Cedric Charlier but could do nothing to stop Sebastien Dockier from giving Belgium a 2-1 lead as he swept home at the back post with a little over ten minutes remaining. The goal set up a tense grandstand finish as the Kookaburras went in search of a dramatic equaliser. A penalty corner won on appeal did not quite go to plan but just as it looked as though time was running out, Russell Ford’s run behind the Belgian defence was timed perfectly to connect with a long pass and deflected home for 2-2.

With the sides level, the final went to a shoot-out. Matt Swann, Simon Orchard, Trent Mitton and Chris Ciriello all saw their shots find the target with only Matt Gohdes having his saved but at 4-4 after five shots each the shoot-out went to sudden death.

Sudden death began with some controversy as goalkeeper Andrew Charter cleaned out the Belgian Loick Luypaert, who had to leave the pitch injured. With the umpires awarding a retake, Charter stepped up to deny Florent van Aubel, but Swann then saw his shot saved. Orchard and Mitton and their Belgian counterparts all scored before Simon Gougnard scored for Belgium. Ciriello, who had been one of Australia’s stand out players in the match, needed to score to keep the Kookaburras in contention but as he let off his shot replacement goalkeeper Jeremy Gucassoff got the faintest of touches on the ball to send it trickling wide and secure victory for Belgium. 

Despite the defeat, second place at the World League guarantees the Kookaburras their participation in the 2014 World Cup in The Hague and a place at the fourth and final round of the World League competition, set to take place in India in January.

And, depending on how Germany fare in the corresponding World League third round competition in Malaysia next week, the Kookaburras could return to the top of the world rankings. Anything less than a top two position for Germany will see the Kookaburra renamed as the world’s best team.

Final Standings
1. Belgium
2. Australia
3. Netherlands
4. New Zealand
5. Spain
6. India
7. Ireland
8. France

SEMI FINAL:Australia (4) defeat The Netherlands (3)

The Kookaburras sealed their place in the final of the World League tournament in Rotterdam in the early hours of Saturday morning with a thoroughly deserved 4-3 victory over the Netherlands. Despite the narrow margin of victory over the hosts and world number three side, the Kookaburras controlled the match for lengthy periods, creating more chances than their esteemed rivals.

The Kookaburras will meet Belgium in Sunday’s final, albeit without Kieran Govers, who pulled up clutching his right hamstring late in the match.

Chris Ciriello and Matt Gohdes gave the Kookaburras a 2-1 lead at the break and further goals from Russell Ford and Kieran Govers put the Australian men 4-2 ahead before Rogier Hofman’s goal with a little over ten minutes remaining set up a tense finale.

Speaking afterwards, coach Ric Charlesworth said, “It was a tough struggle in the end. We deserved to win but just a few moments could have changed that. Their goalkeeper was very good again but we didn’t execute our chances as well as we could have.”

Referring to Sunday’s final against the Red Lions, Charlesworth added, “We always want to play in the main game and the team is keen to play Belgium again. We want to test ourselves there.” The Kookaburras’ only defeat at the tournament came at the hands of Belgium in their opening match.

A typically high octane start saw Australia use the video referral to win a penalty corner in the first minute, only for the Netherlands to successfully use it to overturn a penalty stroke award given during the subsequent corner moments later.

Trent Mitton was the first to test Dutch goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann, whose fine form kept his team in the contest throughout the first half. But even Stockmann could do nothing about the low drag flick from his Euro Hockey League winning Bloemendaal teammate Chris Ciriello as he put the Kookaburras 1-0 up in the 17th minute.

The goal ignited the match and tournament top scorer Jeroen Hertzberger levelled for 1-1 from the Netherlands’ first penalty corner as he too found the bottom corner of the goal. But parity did not last long and great individual skill from Matt Gohdes saw the Queenslander cut along the baseline, evade a challenge and swivel to slot the ball home from the narrowest of angles for 2-1.

Stockmann showed his credentials with a string of saves to frustrate the Australian forward line as he kept out Mark Knowles, Russell Ford and Jamie Dwyer in quick succession. And it looked as if the saves may prove crucial when Billy Bakker had the time and space to fire home an equaliser but Russell Ford’s deflection of Govers’ low penalty corner flick made it 3-2 four minutes later.

The Dutch were still a threat but Andrew Charter’s block from a Hertzberger corner almost instigated a fourth Australian goal as the Kookaburras broke upfield, only for Simon Orchard to see his effort saved by Stockmann.  The fourth goal did come, however, following clever play from Jamie Dwyer who, surrounded by four Dutch defenders, was able to win a penalty corner that Govers fired home with the aid of a deflection to make it 4-2.

Rogier Hofman’s goal with just over ten minutes remaining halved the deficit again when he received the ball back at a penalty corner before sweeping it low into the goal. The strike made for a tense final period with Australia backing off and looking to counter the Dutch, which they appeared to have done to good effect with two minutes remaining when Govers burst into the Netherlands’ circle only for the 25 year old to pull up clutching his right hamstring.

The Kookaburras will now take on Belgium in the final at 00:30am AEST on Monday morning. The Netherlands will face New Zealand in the third place playoff.

GAME 4: Australia (5) defeat India (1)

A clinical first half display helped the Kookaburras seal a semi-final berth at the Hockey World League and, so long as France do not cause one of the biggest upsets in world hockey later, a place at the 2014 World Cup in The Hague thanks to a 5-1 victory over India in Rotterdam.

For Australia not to automatically qualify to defend their title, Olympic silver medallists the Netherlands will need to lose their quarter final to outsiders France.

Before the match – the 100th between the two teams - much of the attention had been on Jamie Dwyer, who made his 300th appearance for Australia, but the Kookaburras demonstrated early on that their focus was firmly on securing the crucial victory. Glenn Simpson’s second minute opener put the Kookaburras in the driving seat before Matt Gohdes’s strike midway through the first half set in motion an incredible four minute period that saw India half the deficit before Australia stretched their lead, firstly to 3-1 and then to 4-1 as Russell Ford added to an Indian own goal.

Good use of the video referral system early in the second half presented Australia with a penalty corner at which Matthew Swann reacted quickest to a rebound off the goalkeeper’s helmet to make it 5-1; his third goal in seven matches.

Head Coach Ric Charlesworth admitted afterwards that he was relieved at the outcome. “My first feeling is one of relief,” said the Kookaburras’ coach. “There was a lot at stake today. After a first half like that, in the second half you just have to keep grinding it out.

“We want to win the tournament. We always came here to win but the problem in my opinion was that the biggest part of the tournament was in the middle, the quarter finals [because of the opportunity to qualify for the World Cup]. Now that’s out of the way I want us to be in the main game on Sunday.”

Speaking about his captain for the day, Jamie Dwyer, Charlesworth said, “He has been the outstanding player of this era for Australia and one of the best in the world. I’m delighted the boys put in that performance today for him.”

Like Australia’s Socceroos the night before, the Kookaburras knew that victory would in all likelihood see them through to next year’s World Cup. And no sooner had the game begun than Australia won their first penalty corner. From the set play, Chris Ciriello’s vision found Glenn Simpson in space and he made no mistake, flicking home from the middle of the circle.

The Kookaburras were then handed a numerical advantage as India lost Dharamvir Singh to a ten minute suspension, followed shortly by green card suspensions for Harbir Singh Sandhu and Trent Mitton. However, both sides were at full complement by the time Australia doubled their lead in the 20th minute. Having demonstrated his defensive qualities in charging down India’s only penalty corner of the match, Matt Gohdes made an even bigger impact at the other end minutes later as he netted to make it 2-0.

The strike sparked a frenzied period that saw four goals scored in less than three minutes. Chinglensana Singh Kangujam halved the deficit almost immediately as he capitalised on a mistake in the Kookaburras’ defence but no sooner had India hauled themselves back into the match than Australia’s two goal cushion was restored through an own goal that looped up off a defender and over the goalkeeper. And less than a minute later Russell Ford made it 4-1 as he finished off a flowing attacking move, sliding his shot inside the back post.

Eddie Ockenden’s good use of the video referral system won the Kookaburras a penalty corner four minutes into the second half and when Chris Ciriello’s powerful flick rebounded back off the goalkeeper’s helmet Matthew Swann reacted quickest to divert the ball home for 5-1. Having scored just twice in his first 88 appearances for the Kookaburras, the Queenslander has now found the back of the net three times in his last seven games.

The Kookaburras had further chances, notably two crosses in front of the Indian goal that Dwyer came within millimetres of converting, a two late penalty corners but the job was already done.

Australia will now face the winner of the quarter-final between the Netherlands and France in the semi-final, anticipated to be the Olympic silver medallists the Netherlands. That match gets underway at 1:00am AEST on Saturday.

GAME 3: Australia (7) defeat France (1) 

Jamie Dwyer underlined his credentials as one of Australian sport’s greatest athletes with a superb five goal haul as the Kookaburras beat France 7-1 at the Hockey World League in Rotterdam on Monday. Coming in his 299th appearance, Dwyer’s heroics only served to highlight the remarkable milestone the Queenslander is predicted to reach on Wednesday as he becomes only the third Australian man to play 300 times for the Kookaburras.

Against Pool A outsiders France, the Kookaburras were always expected to perform and in truth the score could have been greater had it not been for a combination of key French interventions and missed opportunities.

Dwyer completed his hat-trick inside the opening 24 minutes with three very different goals; a shot on the turn, a deft lob over the goalkeeper and a neat deflection, adding two more after the break.

Wollongong’s Kieran Govers emphatically fired Australia’s fifth goal into the roof of the net, with Matthew Swann also on target with an excellent individual tomahawk effort inside the near post.

Temporarily at least, the result puts the Kookaburras to the top of Pool A, ahead of Belgium’s clash with Spain later in the day. The final positions in the pool determine the opposition from Pool B for Wednesday’s crunch winner-takes-all quarter-final clashes. With a World Cup spot riding on victory in those ties, the Kookaburras still have it all to do.

Kookaburras’ Assistant Coach Graham Reid was happy with the result but admitted the focus would very quickly turn to Wednesday’s quarter final. “It was a reasonable result,” he said. “We created a lot of opportunities, many more than we actually scored. But we’re already moving forward, looking at the next game and preparing for our quarter-final opposition. We won’t spend too much time looking at the France game.

“There were some good signs there today but also a couple of disappointing things in defence. We’d like zero goals against in every game.”

The Kookaburras began brightly with Russell Ford coming close in the opening minute and France twice clearing from in front of goal from Chris Ciriello’s penalty corners. Dwyer’s opener when it came was a clear demonstration of clinical timing as the 34-year-old allowed the ball to bounce before hitting his shot on the turn with his back to goal. And he showed off yet more of the technique that has seen him voted as the world’s best player five times as he lifted the ball over the advancing French goalkeeper in the 14th minute after being set up by Trent Mitton.

While Australia enjoyed the best of the possession throughout, both Kookaburras goalkeepers - Tristan Clemons in the first half and Andrew Charter in the second period – had to look lively on occasion. Clemons’ two penalty corner saves midway through the first half kept France at bay before Dwyer’s hat-trick-scoring deflection from Ciriello’s flick. But, having threatened earlier, from another penalty corner France scored in the final minute of the first half to spoil Australian hopes of a clean sheet.

Another deflection, this time from Mark Knowles’ cross from the left, handed Dwyer his fourth to make it 4-1 in the 41st minute and just two minutes later it was 5-1 as Govers fired home a penalty corner rebound into the roof of the net.

A rare Matthew Swann goal made it 6-1 with 22 minutes remaining. Showing excellent strength to hold off his opponent, Swann, from Mackay (QLD), forced his way into the circle before unleashing a pin-point low tomahawk shot inside the left post before Dwyer rounded off with his fifth for 7-1.

Tim Deavin and captain Eddie Ockenden both had opportunities to extend the lead but France’s defence kept them out. And at the other end, with two minutes remaining, having had little to do since coming on as a half time substitute, goalkeeper Andrew Charter stepped up to save a late penalty stroke with his right foot.

Dwyer said afterwards, “I’m very happy. To hit five is nice. I haven’t done that too many times. As a team we can improve and we’ll need to play better if we want to make the final.” When asked how he could better his performance next time, the Kookaburra replied tongue-in-cheek, “score six”.

The quarter-final draw will see the team finishing top of Pool play against the team in fourth in Pool B, second in Pool A plays third in Pool B and so on. The match between Belgium and Spain will impact heavily on Australia’s final position in the pool. The Kookaburras will face one of New Zealand, the Netherlands, Ireland or India depending on the results.

Tables – at 11:00pm AEST
Pool A
1. Australia 6 pts (3 games)
2. Belgium 6 pts (2 games)
3. Spain 3 pts (2 games)
4. France 0 pts (3 games)

Pool B
1. New Zealand 4 pts (2 games)
2. Netherlands 4 pts (2 games)
3. Ireland 1 pt (2 games)
4. India 1 pt (2 games)

GAME 2: Australia (5) defeat Spain (2)

The Kookaburras kicked their World League campaign into gear with a resounding 5-2 victory over Spain on Saturday. And the margin might have been greater had it not been for some top class goalkeeping by Spain’s Francisco Cortes.

After the disappointment of an opening day defeat to Belgium, the Kookaburras took to the field with renewed vigour and made their mark with five different goal scorers finding the back of the net in a commanding win.

Penalty corners played a key part with Kieran Govers and Chris Ciriello both converting set pieces in the first half. A tremendous volley from Ed Tubau pulled one back for Spain, before a quick-fire five minutes saw Kiel Brown, Russell Ford and Rob Hammond all add their names to the score sheet. Gabriel Debanch’s last minute penalty corner goal was little more than consolation for Spain.

Kookaburras Head Coach Ric Charlesworth called it a “solid” performance after the match, adding, “Yesterday [against Belgium] was disappointing because we lost two goals from two attacks in the first half and when you do that you’re in trouble. Today, we scored three penalty corners, so that helped. Belgium’s goalkeeper yesterday made some brilliant saves and Spain’s goalkeeper did today, too, but we did enough.

“We always want to keep improving each game but the dilemma is that in these three pool games it’s a bit of a phony war because of the quarter-finals, which are the vital matches.” 

The Kookaburras began brightly with Queenslander Jamie Dwyer flicking his well-controlled volley narrowly over the top in the opening stages. But it wasn’t long before the Australians were on the board through Kieran Govers. His low penalty corner flick found the net with the aid of a deflection off the foot of Spanish defender Bosco Perez to make it 1-0.

Australia survived a slight scare just prior to the half hour mark when a Spanish attack flashed across Andrew Charter’s goal before, at the other end, Matt Gohdes was expertly thwarted by the outstretched toe of the impressive Cortes in goal.  The Kookaburras were not to be held back and Chris Ciriello found his range with a powerful penalty corner drag flick in the final minute of the first half to send his side in 2-0 up at the break.

There was little that goalkeeper Charter could have done to stop Ed Tubau’s perfect point blank volley from finding the roof of the net three minutes into the second half but Kiel Brown restored Australia’s two goal cushion in the 45th minute. Eddie Ockenden’s shot on the turn from the top of the circle was aimed outside the post, where Brown appeared on cue to guide the ball home.

Russell Ford and Simon Orchard combined well for Australia’s fourth goal. Cutting in from a lung-bursting run down the left hand side, Ford squared the ball to the onrushing Orchard at the top of the circle. Despite being at full stretch, Orchard threw himself to return the pass to Ford, wrong footing the Spanish defence and leaving Ford with most of the goal at his mercy.

Completing a whirlwind five minutes, Rob Hammond made it 5-1 when he dived in to lift the ball over the goalkeeper, who was lying on the deck after initially stopping Matt Gohdes’ slapped penalty corner shot.

At 5-1 the match was over as a contest and Gabriel Debanch’s late flick low into the bottom left corner narrowed the score but was mere consolation for Spain.


Game 1: Belgium (3) defeat Australia (1)

The Kookaburras’ campaign for World Cup qualification got off to a difficult start in Rotterdam on Friday with a 3-1 defeat to Belgium in their opening match at the Rabobank Hockey World League.

An early goal from the high-flying Belgians put the Kookaburras on the back foot from the first minute and despite their superiority in possession, the Australian men found themselves 2-0 down at the break after Cedric Charlier added to Sebastien Dockier’s opener.

Russell Ford’s close range goal with seven minutes remaining looked to have given the Kookaburras a way back into the game but John-John Dohmen took the sting out of any such resurgence with a neat deflection to make it 3-1 moments later.

Kookaburras assistant coach Graham Reid said afterwards, “We just weren’t on our game enough today and against a quality team like Belgium you aren’t going to get away with that. We created enough chances in the first half and they came down our end twice and scored twice but we need more quality in the chances we create.

“From the first play we lost the ball and they came back at us. If you give away an early opportunity like that it makes it very difficult.”

Things began awkwardly with the Australians initially greeted by the national anthem of New Zealand and it did not get much better with Dockier getting the faintest of touches on a driven pass into the Kookaburras’ circle with just over 60 seconds on the clock.

Australia refused to let the goal panic them as they went about controlling the vast majority of the opening 35 minutes. Half chances notably fell to Jamie Dwyer and Glenn Simpson, from a penalty corner, but they could not find a way past Vincent Vanasch in the Belgian goal. And despite their superiority in possession, the Kookaburras found themselves 2-0 down at half time after Charlier’s close range goal midway through the half. 

Chris Ciriello tested Vanasch with two penalty corner flicks in the second period but the goalkeeper was equal to the task on both occasions as Kookaburras players piled in for the rebounds.

When it came, Ford’s goal was laid on for him perfectly by five-times World Player of the Year Jamie Dwyer, whose flat tomahawk pass from the baseline left Victorian Ford with the simplest of finishes. With a little over five minutes remaining the goal gave the Kookaburras hope of a comeback but John-John Dohmen extinguished such hopes with a well-timed run and deflection at the near post to make it 3-1.

Hockey Australia

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